2016 to put pulses on the plate

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Thirty years in the making … a successful Australian lentil industry.

PHOTOS: Brad Collis

The 2016 International Year of Pulses (IYP 2016) will spearhead a worldwide effort to lift pulse production, consumption and market access – and the billion-dollar Australian industry is hoping to be a major beneficiary.

The United Nations (UN) declared 2016 the ‘International Year of Pulses’ following a campaign mounted by the international pulse community under the Global Pulse Confederation (GPC) (formerly CICILS IPTIC).

Organisers say IYP 2016 is a tremendous opportunity to give pulses “the attention they deserve” – a reference to the previous global spotlight given to now high-profile crops such as quinoa.

2016 International Year of Pulses calendar

  • 1 to 8 May: Tasting Australia, Adelaide
  • 4 May: Australian Pulse Health, Nutrition and Food Innovation Symposium (administered by GLNC), Adelaide
  • 27 to 28 June: Student Pulse Product Development Competition (administered via the AIFST), Brisbane
  • July (dates TBA): Australian Grains Industry Conference (administered by GTA, Pulse Australia and AOF), Melbourne
  • September (dates TBA): Australian Pulse Conference (administered by PBA), Tamworth, New South Wales

The international pulse industry has identified two distinct influences on consumption and production: global food security and the western epidemic of chronic lifestyle diseases.

Research confirming pulses’ value in preventing or reducing the incidence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease is generating new demand from health and functional food markets, while regions beset by food shortages, particularly the Indian subcontinent and sub-Saharan Africa, represent a large untapped market – although a price-sensitive one.

IYP 2016 targets have been set to increase global pulse production and consumption by 10 per cent within five years and to improve international market access.

The GPC has engaged 33 countries, including Australia, and almost 50 private partners. Cash and in-kind investments by the global pulse industry exceed US$12 million (A$17 million) to date and include a US$1.1 million (A$1.6 million) injection from GPC reserves. Blue Ribbon and its allied company, Foods From the Earth, have committed A$100,000 to the Australian program as principal industry partner.

IYP Australian national committee chair Georgie Aley says the focus is on driving demand in Australia, which has one of the world’s lowest pulse consumption rates.

“The committee has set targets to increase pulse consumption by 470 per cent by 2020 (in line with Australian Dietary Guidelines), to increase production by 10 per cent within that timeframe and to bump up export and domestic trade of Australian pulses,” she says.The committee will work with the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC), Pulse Australia, Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA), the Grains Industry Market Access Forum (GIMAF) and the Australian Institute of Food Science Technology (AIFST) to pursue IYP objectives across the four global themes:

  • Food and Nutrition Security and Innovation;
  • Creating Awareness;
  • Market Access and Stability; and
  • Productivity and Environmental Sustainability.

Nutrition cornerstone

While pulses have been the cornerstone of global nutrition for centuries, Ms Aley says the dedicated UN year will help to reposition beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils as a primary source of protein and other essential nutrients. Attention will also be drawn to the environmental benefits of pulses in the farming landscape.

The GLNC will coordinate an Australian Pulse Health, Nutrition and Food Innovation Symposium on behalf of the IYP national committee in Adelaide in May, and the focus on food innovation will continue with a pulse theme for the AIFST’s 2016 student product-development competition.

Ms Aley says IYP 2016 provides an opportunity for Pulse Australia to work further with government to address trade barriers through GIMAF. “If we can open up the Asian markets and build our profile as a quality supplier, we can generate benefits for both growers and the industry as a whole,” she says.

Working with PBA and Pulse Australia, the IYP Australian national committee will conduct a half-day IYP ‘farm-to-table’ workshop at the 2016 Australian Pulse Conference in Tamworth, New South Wales, in September that will explore each of the global themes.

Ms Aley, who is AIFST chief executive officer and GLNC managing director, also chairs the IYP global ‘Creating Awareness’ committee. Pulse Australia is represented on the global ‘Market Access and Stability’ and ‘Productivity and Environmental Sustainability’ committees and GLNC general manager Michelle Broom sits on the global ‘Food and Nutrition Security and Innovation’ committee.

Chef takes on advocacy role

Image of Simon Bryant

Chef Simon Bryant.

Australian chef Simon Bryant has become Australia’s official pulses champion – a role he has unofficially assumed throughout his career in the public eye – following his appointment as the 2016 International Year of Pulses (IYP 2016) Australian advocate.

Simon says he does not believe in ‘faddism’ and hopes his influence translates into long-term behavioural change so the per capita consumption of beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils in Australia has a long-term lift. 

“The International Year of Pulses is not about preaching to the converted; it is about reaching the mass population,” Simon says.
The co-star of ABC Television’s The Cook and the Chef series believes the Middle Eastern aromas and flavours suit the Australian palate and climate.

He says pulses have been his personal staple “for eons”, as reflected in his cookbooks, in which he also offers some basic advice for novices: “Soak your chickpeas but don’t soak your lentils and don’t boil either of them to death. When you cook pulses to al dente using the absorption method you will discover a real vibrancy of flavour, and remember it is more about the quality of the produce than the method or the recipe.”

Simon says growers could also do more to promote their crops: “I’ve spoken to many growers who don’t eat what they are producing. From their perspective, pulses are just a handy rotation crop … they don’t realise they are growing a world-class, highly esteemed product.”

Cooking tips and recipes
Simon Bryant’s new book Vegetables, Grains and Other Good Stuff (Penguin Books Australia) features several pulse recipes and is available from his website


More information:

Rebecca Freeman, IYP coordinator,
0414 844 425,

Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council

International Year of Pulses 2016

Pulse Australia


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